Heart of the Matter

Andy Chan's Blog for Parents, Mentors and Teachers

Take it or leave it

So you have a job offer. And your potential employer has asked for your decision by the end of the month. Should you take it or leave it?

Conventional (and conservative) wisdom in this market says, “Take it. Are you crazy? You’ll really regret it if you pass on this offer and don’t get another one later.”

Romantic (and optimistic) wisdom says, “How can you settle? You deserve so much better. ”

The answer is just not that simple. Consider the following thoughts and questions to help you make the best decision:

  1. How well does this job offer meet your top job criteria – the values and benefits that you want in your next job? Common mistakes made by job seekers: they don’t define these criterion clearly; they have too many criterion; they value each criterion equally when they’re not of equal value; or they don’t assess the values and benefits of the job offer accurately (people seriously underestimate their ability to change jobs and careers in the future).
  2. What is your other option and how likely will you spend the effort and time to pursue it and obtain it? Common mistakes made by job seekers: they haven’t defined another option; they don’t understand what’s required to pursue and obtain the other option (pretty risky thinking [or lack of it] in this ugly job market); they don’t consider a worst case scenario (like “Can I survive without a job until 2010?” or “Will I be OK with dozens upon dozens of employers repeating, ‘We’re not hiring right now.'”?

Given the above, you’re probably thinking “Andy is recommending that I take this job.” Wrong!

About 20% of the students who I have discussed this issue with have chosen to reject their job offers. And I wholeheartedly agreed with their decision. In these cases, the specific reasons included sincerely disliking the work and the career path (clearly visible in her voice, eyes and body language); an undesirable location that would make it difficult to return to the United States; an poor fit between the job and the future career direction (which was clear to him only after I verified that his logic was correct).

With each person, they would rather go without a job for the next 9-12 months and perhaps longer, than take a job that was not right for them. Each person’s situation is very unique and requires time to consider and evaluate.

Talking to your future employer isn’t enough. They have a vested interest in your decision.

Talking to your peers or parents isn’t enough. They don’t have the breadth of knowledge or perspective to provide an objective view (as your friends and family, they are not objective). Also, as hard as people try to give objective advice, most actually give advice that is biased from their own personal experience or values.

Whether you are a student or not, I recommend that you discuss your logic with a career advisor. S/he is an objective party with extensive experience and perspective working with many others who have wrestled with decisions just like yours. S/he won’t give you the answer. After all, it’s your decision.

But you will benefit greatly by receiving important information, being asked critical questions (that you possibly have not thought of), and developing clarity on your logic and decision.

It’s a big decision. Why take a chance with it?

Who is your best source for advice and perspective on your job offers?

Category: Job/Internship Search, Tips for Students

One Response to Take it or leave it

  1. Susan says:

    Good points you’ve made. I will be back to read more again!